When traveling, it’s easy to slack off your gym routine. Sure, there are a million body-weight workouts you can do in your hotel room, but let’s be real – push-ups right between your bed and window, while trying not to be too loud, is not exactly motivating. For most people, that’s not a problem. Being away from your gym for a week isn’t going to hurt you. But the craziest of us go on holiday just to get a good workout. I’m talking about training Muay Thai, also Thai boxing, in a dedicated camp.
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What is Thai boxing?
Thailand’s national sport is similar to K1 kickboxing. It is often called the “art of eight limbs” which refers to the use of shins, knees, elbows, and fists. The striking and kicking are combined with clinching, making it a very demanding sport.
Why would you train Muay Thai as a farang?
The rigorous training routine of the typical Muay Thai fighter consists of four hours of training a day, six days a week, plus running. When preparing for a fight, this can become even more. Of course, as a farang, you don’t have to train like that. But why train at all?
Most trainees of this sport would probably agree with me that Thai boxing improves your fitness very quickly. The combination of intervals (3-5 rounds on the pads), strength and agility training is very effective. And immersing yourself in the sport completely, without too many distractions, will improve your skills immensely.
What is the training like?
That’s different for every gym. Usually, there will be a warm-up consisting of running or jumping rope. After that, there’s some form of stretching, followed by pad work or sparring. Then follow kicks on the heavy bag and some form of strength and conditioning. Some gyms clinch once a day, some clinch twice. If your goal is to fight, make sure you find a gym that can teach you to clinch properly. In case you’re like me, and you just want to train for the fun of it, the clinching isn’t as much of priority. At the end of the class, there will be a form of cool down and maybe some more stretching. One lesson will usually be two hours, and there are a morning and afternoon class. This is complemented or replaced by running on some days.
Can I train in a camp as a beginner?
Not all camps in Thailand are the same, so some of them offer beginner courses, while others don’t. Some of the smaller camps don’t have a dedicated beginner class and mix it up, making it difficult to find a fit for sparring or clinching. And some of the bigger gyms can become so crowded that you’ll get very little one-on-one time with the trainers. But generally, you can start training even if you have no experience. Many times you are even welcome if you haven’t done any sport at all before.
The difficulty here is finding the right crowd. I’m training in Pai right now, and the atmosphere is very motivating and accepting, and there’s something for everyone, beginner to master. If you don’t feel welcome in your gym, it’s not the right place for you!
How long should you stay in the camp for?
As a rule of thumb: the more time you can invest, the better. But not every one of us has months to spend. So does it make sense just to come for a week? It depends – if you already have training experience, a week is great to pick up the tips and notions of real Muay Thai fighters, which are still fighting or have been before. But the first week is going to be hell, regardless. No matter how hard you usually train, the body needs time to adapt to the stress it’s put under in a Thai boxing camp. That’s why you would probably get more out of at least two weeks of training.
If you’re not fit at all, I’d recommend a month. That’s because you’ll only be concentrating on surviving in the first week. Also, there will be days where you will need to stay home, for example when you’re not recovering quickly enough. Factor that in and a month will give you a good time to jump-start your fitness!
How to survive Thai boxing camp?
Here are my five top tips to survive your Muay Thai training:
- Push through the first week! No matter how hard it is, as long as you’re not getting injured, go to the training. It will be hard – you’ll be in pain. There will be muscles hurting that you didn’t know existed. But if you’re steady, your body will learn to adapt. If you feel it is too much, only go to one training a day.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep! Get as much sleep as your body needs to recover. Shoot for the eight hours, but if you feel seven and a nap are better, do what feels right. Don’t go around partying, though – you’re going to burn yourself out fast!
- Eat, eat, eat! This is not the time to be on a diet. Your body needs fuel. Usually, Thai food is pretty good for recovery, as it has a good mix of carbs and proteins (think chicken curry and rice). You can re-introduce the diet into your life after your body has adapted.
- Cut back on caffeine. My natural response to the added stress was to drink more coffee. That only resulted in a constant state of adrenaline and eventually in the disability to sleep, though. Your body will be under constant stress, and caffeine just magnifies that. Don’t worry. I’m not telling you to stop drinking coffee! Just keep an eye on it.
- Be social. Okay, I just told you not to party, right? Well, that still applies, at least for training days. But your fellow Thai boxing trainees will keep you accountable, watch the fights with you and push you through tough days. Don’t forget: You’re all there to train.
One last tip if you consider training at a camp in Thailand: Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always be on top of your game. I’m driven when it comes to my training, and I can get quite frustrated with myself. But you are improving, don’t forget that!
Have you ever trained at a Muay Thai camp, and if yes, what are your tips for others who plan to go?